Putting the F-35 to Work

Fourteen F-35As deployed to Volk Field, Wis., last month, marking the largest deployment to date for the fifth generation strike fighter. The 33rd Fighter Wing personnel developed how to deploy and sustain a squadron of F-35s during Exercise Northern Lightning, according to a release. Lt. Col. Brad Bashore, 58th Fighter Squadron commander, said their performance “during the exercise displays that the aircraft is combat ready, even in its infancy,” according to the release. During the two-week deployment, the 33rd FW scored over 110 kills, flew 138 sorties, and dropped 24 GBU-12 bombs. Pilots were able to practice offensive, counter-air skills, suppressing enemy air defenses, and joint operations with F-16s, F/A-18s, E/A-18s, and E-3s. “Believing that you are invisible is hard,” Capt. Mark Schnell, a 33rd FW pilot said. “[But] to come out and fly against fourth-generation assets and really see that the stealth capabilities of the F-35 are as advertised has been awesome.” (See also: F-35 Lightning Unleashed from the September issue of Air Force Magazine.)